Heart attack

My Heart Attack

I'm new at this. Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose. At one time the very thought of a computer would bring me o...

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Earliest School Memories

My first memories of school are probably not actually 'school' at all. From an early age, which would presumably have been around the age five or even less (so if I'm 63 now and was born in 1950 would be about 1955 or so) I went to a house in Kimbolton Road, Bedford, run by a lady called Miss Beale. No doubt it would have been called a play school, or even a nursery.  I don't think we actually did proper lessons, most likely just kept occupied with games, drawing and the odd bit of reading. Read to, not actually us reading, although I doubt very much that I could read myself by then. I expect it was privately run. I have actually no idea. I expect my two elder brothers, James and Robert went there, so little John went there as well. I have no idea why we went there and not to the local primary school in Cardington. As the village is some four or five miles out of Bedford, it would be quite a way to be taken to this establishment in the middle of Bedford. Presumably it was privately run. All I can remember vaguely was that it was in a big house on several floors and it had a long flight of steps going up to the front door. I know pretty well exactly where it was, somewhere near the shop on the corner of Pemberley Avenue. I have walked along there in the last ten years or so, but can't pinpoint the exact house as it has changed considerably over the years. Memory does do strange tricks and, when you are small you see things from a different angle compared to how you view the world as an adult of over six feet tall. It must, I presume, be around opposite what is called Hitchcock House, a modern building which houses a lot of what I think are called out patients departments of the N.H.S. as I think I went there for physiotherapy and possibly blood tests as an adult. That 'block' used to be North Wing Hospital up until several decades ago, including the maternity wing as my daughter Chloe was born there in 1984, although that department of the hospital was moved to modern premises in Kempston Road, Bedford, some time ago.

I then went to Walmsley House School at about 6 or 7, which, coincidentally was opposite 'Miss Beale's.' I think the building was the old maternity department of the hospital in an earlier incarnation. Buildings do change their use quite frequently over the decades. I think my younger brother, Sandy, was born there but I don't know when it stopped being used for that purpose and went over to being a school. It's strange how your memory remembers some things yet blocks out other things. I imagine the house used by 'Miss Beale's' is now a private residence. I haven't lived in Bedford since 2007, and haven't been along Kimbolton Road for about a decade so I don't know how much more it has changed there, but I don't suppose a great deal. I believe that Walmsley House School was taken over by the Harpur Trust, which is the body which owns and runs the large private schools such as Bedford School and where my brothers James, Robert and Sandy went. I think what was Walmsley House moved to new buildings in Brickhill Drive in the later part of the 1990's and was renamed. The old building in Kimbolton Road was taken over by St Andrew's School for girls (which is or was in buildings further along on the opposite side of Kimbolton Road and where one of my female cousins went to in the 1960's.)

I can't say I remember much about Walmsley House. I think I have mentioned somewhere on these posts about how lunch was brought to the school by a van and delivered in large metal tins, because the school didn't have it's own kitchens to cook it's own food for lunch. I have no idea where this food came from, presumably the same kitchens which provided meals for state schools in the town. I do remember the van turning up in the playground. We ate the lunches in a rather smelly area of the school, I think some of the tables were set up along the landing of the entrance hall and some delightful child throwing food over the bannisters! Amazing how you remember such things and the fact that the dining hall had this awful smell of over-boiled cabbage and stale food. Having been into quite  a few primary and infant schools over the years with puppet productions I've worked on, many of them had the same awful smell. Really not nice and you would think it would be possible to get rid of it and avoid it. Just not able to clean up the left-over dinners  properly which were generally fairly obnoxious which would be why so much was left over. Why were school dinners so awful? Lumpy custard and gravy, disgusting liver, more like old rubbers, over-cooked vegetables and in particular cabbage boiled to death and mashed potato that tastes more like wallpaper paste! Prunes and custard, bright pink sponge pudding and custard, the list goes on and on

Then there was the hilarious incident also mentioned elsewhere on the posts about the out-door production of whatever it was at Walmsley House, which included a sort of country dance which the children put on, and with music provided by a record player at the side of the stage, which was a raised grassy mound. Then a teacher who wore high-heeled stiletto-style shoes trod on the power cable to the record player and there was a loud bang and a flash of blew and the record with the music ground to a halt! It's a wonder the teacher who stood on the cable wasn't electrocuted. Can you imagine this happening today? There's be an outcry from the Health and Safety people and if the newspapers got hold of it, they'd make a meal out of it. 'Children at risk of electrocution from stiletto-wearing mad teacher' or worse on the front pages of the tabloids! I seem to remember that they always put on a production of 'William Tell' every year. I can't think why that particular story, and again, can you imagine the scene with the boy Tell having the apple on his head and having the cross-bow bolt fired at him by his father (don't ask me the context as I don't remember.). Just I imagine if you did this in a school today it would have to pass Health and Safety at some point and it would be in the tabloids again for all the wrong reasons.

Post a Comment